Friday, 9 September 2011

To Remember and Reflect - a meditation on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11

   Too long have I had my dwelling
   among those who hate peace.
I am for peace;
   but when I speak,
   they are for war.
                  (Psalm 120:6-7)

The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy provides a salutary opportunity to remember the victims of this attack and to reflect on the issue of human security in a world of increasing poverty, inequality and conflict. Firstly, we need to remember the victims and families of those killed and injured during the terror attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon and to reassert our condemnation of all forms of terrorist activity in any part of the world. We particularly condemn the callous and cowardly indoctrination and deployment of suicide bombers by extremist groups who indiscriminately kill men, women and children for their perverse ends! Their abusive and destructive actions have destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of people over the past decade and despite their propaganda they are to be counted among those the Psalmist identifies as haters of peace!

However,  we also need to remember the multiple thousands of  casualties – both armed forces and civilians – and countless number of maimed, injured and emotionally traumatised victims (and their families) of the so-called ‘War on Terror’ in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. The pain and suffering this has caused the civilian populations in these countries has been immense and continues to foster resentment and hatred towards the West despite regime change and greater political freedom. We pay tribute to those in our armed forces who have paid the ultimate price in seeking to secure our national security in the UK and pray for those who continue to struggle with the enormous pain of the loss and void of the death of a loved one in military conflict. However, the critical question that begs answering in the light of all this pain and suffering is whether the UK and the rest of the world is a safer and more humane place after ten years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Ironically, this decade of violence and mayhem coincided with the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence which recently culminated with the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica in May where an impassioned call was made for a Just Peace in all areas where violence and conflict continue to prevail. In the closing message from this Convocation in the section entitled Peace among Peoples it says:

History, especially in the witness of the historic peace churches, reminds us of the fact that violence is contrary to the will of God and can never resolve conflicts. It is for this reason that we are moving beyond the doctrine of just war towards a commitment to Just Peace. It requires moving from exclusive concepts of national security to safety for all.  This includes a day-to-day responsibility to prevent, that is, to avoid violence at its root. Many practical aspects of the concept of Just Peace require discussion, discernment and elaboration. We continue to struggle with how innocent people can be protected from injustice, war and violence. In this light, we struggle with the concept of the “responsibility to protect” and its possible misuse. We urgently request that the WCC and related bodies further clarify their positions regarding this policy.”
The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy affords us a sombre opportunity to remember and reflect and commit ourselves afresh to the urgent task of peace-building in our hearts, homes and communities. For as TS Elliot reminds us:  “If humility and purity be not in the heart, they are not in the home: and if they are not in the home, they are not in the City” (Choruses from the Rock, Book V).            
Frank Kantor